Updated: Aug 26
At Team Kat & Mouse, we want to provide Training, Tactics & Tools for improving your organization’s fundraising and operational success. Sometimes that means talking about the nitty gritty of grant writing or the math behind business development success. But sometimes, like in today’s blog, it’s more personal.
How should we in the nonprofit space interpret and respond to talk of “quiet quitting?”
What does it mean to our team members and to us?
Officially, Kathy Kacher, founder of Career/Life Alliance Services, said that “quiet quitting” is a new term for an old concept: employee disengagement. Quiet quitters may be the members of the team who are putting up boundaries at work and “saying ‘no’ more instead of ‘yes,’” according to Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers, an employee engagement company. There are lots of examples on TikTok and Twitter of influencers and others showing what it means to them to step away from (overwhelming) work engagement.
Quiet quitting doesn’t mean that the employee is turning in a resignation letter. Instead, it shows up as a retreat from hustle culture and a refusal to give up everything in pursuit of ambition.
I worked as part of New York City’s “Big Law” culture in the 90s. We arrived in the office on time and stayed into (or through) the night. Weekends were for working. Lights were left on (with a suit jacket on your chair) when you ran downstairs for - more - coffee in case a partner walked past your briefly empty office. Remote work meant printing a document to read at home in the wee hours of the morning. Really!
When my family moved to Florida in the early 2000’s I knew that I needed a different kind of work environment – I wanted to be present for my children and show them balance.
In one of my early development roles, I managed the major gifts program at an art museum. There were, of course, evening exhibition openings and weekend programs. It often felt as if I lived within the confines of the gallery walls. In fact, we once held a “Night at the Museum” fundraiser during which I actually DID stay overnight. Perhaps because the work often included dressing up and talking over food and drinks…I didn’t see the red flags until it was too late. The workload and communication styles were different, but I had adapted the same (unhealthy) work habits.
Is this what has now happened to so many of us?
Are work cultures that cause an overlap of professional and semi-social activities the cause of a collective need to pull back?
Are the trends of the “Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting” due to the fact that we – in our pajamas, at the kitchen table, on our phones, and with the zoom squares that we came to think of us as our friends - lost the ability to separate work and home in much the same way that I did in my legal career and then again when I found myself in what felt like a 24/7 work environment?
Nonprofit work can be overwhelming because we know that our work makes a difference. Our mission - whether it’s arts, education, health care, or serving people who need our help - doesn’t stop. And so sometimes we think we can’t either. Until we have to…That’s why nonprofit CEOs, Boards, and managers need to help employees set boundaries. Maintaining engagement in the work we care so much about is easier when it can be balanced with “everything else.” Of course, there will be overwhelming and even filled weeks.
But to avoid a rash of quiet quitting by the people who are already invested in making our missions come to life, we need to recognize that they can’t maintain that rate of output all year long.
Here are some Team Kat & Mouse tactics for recognizing burnout before it leads to disengagement and decreased productivity:
To recognize emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion - make sure you’re checking in with employees and recognizing their hours/work. Build a culture where they can tell you about outside experiences or pressures.
Look for increased absenteeism. Using PTO is critical! But keep notice when team members are using unplanned PTO or sick days.
Is someone on the team isolating themselves more? Maybe they are setting boundaries (that’s good), but it’s ok to ask if it’s intentional and to be aware of challenges between team members.
Is someone suddenly more sensitive to feedback? They might be heading towards burnout. Make sure that performance discussions and review are frequent and allow for feedback.
To discuss quite quitting and other trends of the day- reach out to Team Kat & Mouse. We design Training, Tactics, and tools for your organization’s success.